MLB Picks Today | Odds, Expert Projections for Monday, August 21

MLB Picks Today | Odds, Expert Projections for Monday, August 21 article feature image

Getty Images. Pictured: Luis Matos, Freddy Fermin, Spencer Torkelson

Welcome to Opening Pitch, my column that you'll find daily throughout the 2023 MLB season.

My goal for Opening Pitch is to highlight my top daily projection edges for MLB moneylines and totals, share my favorite bets and provide some betting notes and analysis, mainly as I react to opening and overnight lines while using my baseball betting model.

I will look to release a new version of Opening Pitch daily between midnight and 3 a.m. ET; after I enter my overnight bets in the Action Network App and update the MLB projections. Hopefully, you will use it as your morning betting guide to get ahead of the baseball markets.

You can find my projections for every MLB game in the Action App (on both the PRO Projections tab and the game pages) and our Projections Hub (which you can bookmark).

You can also shop for the best lines on our odds page.

Expert Picks for Monday, August 21

San Francisco Giants vs. Philadelphia Phillies

Scott Alexander vs. Aaron Nola
First Pitch: 6:40 p.m. ET

Lefty Scott Alexander (career 3.01 xFIP vs. lefties) will presumably open for the Giants on Monday ahead of Sean Manaea (4.29 xERA or expected ER) and the Giants' bullpen.

Manaea saw a significant velocity uptick in spring training, which he has maintained throughout this season (93.9 mph vs. 91.2 mph in 2022 and 91.7 mph career) while pitching shorter stints, leading to an increase in Stuff+ (94 vs. 89 in 2022).

Still, Manaea was abysmal over the first six weeks of the season (7.96 ERA, 5.03 xFIP, 12% K-BB% across eight appearances and 26 innings) and has only recently started to shine. In the second half, Manaea has posted a 2.74 ERA, 3.10 xFIP and 23.3% K-BB% across eight appearances and 23 innings.

A combination of Alexander, Manaea, and a top-four Giants' bullpen (3.97 xFIP) should be enough to match Aaron Nola, whose metrics (3.86 xERA, 19.2% K-BB%, 106 Pitching+) remain diminished compared to prior seasons (2.74 xERA, 25.5% K-BB%, 108 Pitching+ in 2022).

And I'm much more interested in backing the Giants' offense against righties (95 wRC+, 20th) than lefties (86 wRC+, 28th).

Bet the Giants down to +143 (41.1% implied) at a 2% edge compared to my projected line (+132, or 43.1%)

Chicago Cubs vs. Detroit Tigers

Javier Assad vs. Alex Faedo
First Pitch: 6:40 p.m. ET

I have written about Alex Faedo about as much as any pitcher over the past couple of seasons, and if you're a regular reader, you're probably getting a bit tired of the Faedo spiel.

For the uninitiated, Faedo is a 27-year-old former first-round pick with average stuff (93 Stuff+) and excellent command (104 Location+, 6.1% walk rate) who tossed just 31 innings in the high minors — after missing the entire 2021 season following Tommy John surgery — before his 2022 debut. Faedo both learned and recovered on the job last season, and we've seen an improved version of him in 2023 (4.06 xERA, 16.6% K-BB% vs. 5.53 and 7.8% last season) after some more seasoning to begin this year in Triple-A.

And while he's dealt with more injuries and oddities this season (including a nail issue on his middle finger), Faedo is coming off the best start of his career, per game score (5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K).

Javier Assad (4.53 xERA) will make his fourth consecutive start for the Cubs after spending nearly the entire season in the bullpen. His results (19.2 IP, 16 H, 8 R, 7 BB, 12 K) as a starting pitcher this season align with pedestrian pitching modeling figures (93 Stuff+, 98 Location+, 94 Pitching+), and I view Faedo as the slightly better starting pitcher in this matchup.

I make the Tigers slight favorites on Monday (projected line -103); bet Detroit at +106 or better.

Kansas City Royals vs. Oakland Athletics

Tucker Davidson vs. Paul Blackburn
First Pitch: 9:40 p.m. ET

The Oakland A's — who are playing at a 44-win pace — have only been favored one other time this season, in a 5-1 home loss to the Royals on May 7. Assuming the line holds, Monday's matchup could mark just their third spot as a favorite in the past calendar year.

With Paul Blackburn (3.86 xERA, 98 Pitching+) facing Tucker Davidson (4.91 xERA, 86 Pitching+), Oakland has the starting pitching advantage.

Blackburn has a relatively safe floor (career 4.29 xFIP across 322 innings) and has provided a steady hand — and potentially valuable trade chip — among Oakland's historically bad pitching staff (the 5.76 team ERA is the second-worst mark over the past 10 years).

Davidson, a once-promising late-round sleeper for the Braves, has spent his entire 2023 season in the bullpen across two organizations. The fact that he's left-handed with a good slider (112 Stuff+) may relegate him to bullpen duty in the future.

Still, a rebuilding team searching for something — like the Royals — can afford Davidson one last crack at a big-league rotation spot. And the best part for Monday's matchup is that he (1) pitched on Saturday and (2) isn't fully stretched out, so the Royals will deploy their fully rested bullpen inning by inning on the heels of a complete game from Jordan Lyles (in a 4-3 loss to the Cubs).

On the season, these teams have a pair of bottom-tier offenses (89 wRC+, 25th for Oakland and 87 wRC+, 28th for Kansas City). However, both have broken out in the second half (107 wRC+, 12th for Kansas City, and 100, 16th for Oakland) with some prospects injected into the fold.

The bullpens have arguably gone in the opposite direction — with both teams dealing away whatever they could at the deadline. In August, their relievers occupied the bottom two spots in team xFIP (5.37 and 5.43) and K-BB% (7.0% and 6.6%).

Pitching models preferred the Royals' relievers over that span, however, with a 104 Stuff+, 97 Location+, and 98 Pitching+ (25th), compared to marks of 96, 96, and 95 (29th) for Oakland. I'd expect competing clubs to make inquiries about Carlos Hernandez this winter.

Bet Kansas City to +118 or better compared to my projected line of +109.

Zerillo's Bets for Monday, August 21

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  • Boston Red Sox F5 (+115, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to +115)
  • Detroit Tigers (+118, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to +106)
  • Kansas City Royals (+118, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to +118)
  • Miami Marlins (+172, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to +167)
  • Pittsburgh Pirates (+114, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to +110)
  • San Francisco Giants (+150, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to +143)
  • Texas Rangers F5 (-145, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to -146)

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